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Why KHAW, the old bird?

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When it was announced that Khaw Boon Wan would be taking over the Transport Ministry, I became concerned, not because I thought he lacks the credential or ability to solve the issues that have been plaguing the MRT System, notwithstanding the fact that the challenges posed have already seen the backs of TWO ministers, who also left the cabinet altogether, and at least one of whom has left politics for good too.

I am concerned because amidst all the PAP talks and fan fare about leadership renewal, and LHL’s touting and making it an election issue for GE2015 — that his new leadership team has to take over come the next GE due by 2020 — he has apparently failed to bring in someone of Khaw’s apparent kickass troubleshooting calibre among his latest gaggle of  parachuted-in cabinet talents.

What sort of political talent spotting has LHL and his cronies been indulging in? What sort of yardsticks did he use to determine and decide and select his choices? Mind you, he has in effect been telling the voters of GE2015 that the next generation of PAP leadership is now on board or in the bag (depends on how you want to see it) and the former should act responsibly by voting them in.

The SMRT imbroglio is perhaps one of the best training grounds to acid-test and break-in one or two of the ‘nouveau’ ministerial talents he has brought into his cabinet. Yet, we see an ‘old bird’, despatched to the Transport Ministry, hopefully to perform the necessary ‘surgery’ before his use-by date.

One has to conclude in a couple of ways why this is so.

The most obvious being, none of his new talents and fresh faces in cabinet is up to the task or up to scratch, and that is not a good sign. If none of them are capable (or perhaps are unwilling) to deal with issues as tangible and down-to-earth as MRT trains and system breaking down at such pace and frequency, can we even be sure that they would be able to tackle any of the ‘higher order’ challenges concerning the country’s basic survival in the decades to come? Can they even really think out of the box? Or, is LHL mollycoddling his fragile new finds in case they cracked under pressure and exposed their true mettle or perhaps their lack thereof? Perhaps, this was the lesson  he has learned from the exit of Lui Tuck Yew? Heaven forbids, if that is the calibre of  the newly appointed ‘leaders’ in his cabinet! Perhaps, we should have guessed that this is the case going by the fact that LHL has appointed senior members to perform the task of ‘co-ordinating’ the new ministers. I am sure ‘monitoring’ would more accurately describe it. This additional layer also says something about LHL’s own ability to directly supervise them.

Khaw has had one heart by-pass (which reputedly cost him only S$8.00 but that is another story). How many more rounds of GE can LHL expect him to take? And who is going to look after the continuing challenges posed by the public transport system after he is gone (i.e. on retirement)? The public transport challenges are likely going to remain for years to come from the look of things.

When none of the newbie high officer bearers appeared prepared or equal to the task of managing and solving the train breakdowns, in spite of their often much vaunted qualifications, work records and experiences, Singaporeans must wonder just how does the PAP leadership renewal system really work?   IMO, one common denominator has to be their absolute  loyalty, not necessary ability, to the immediate boss. Just look at Grace Fu and Desmond Lee, for example. Both are known progenies of fathers who had served the Lee family well. What have they really done to deserve their promotions? I think there would be others with similar linkages. Then there is the category like Khaw – former senior servants – who has earned the trust of the Lees because of their loyalty and proven civil service record. This group would include Heng Swee Keat, Howe Yoon Chong and of course, Teh Chiang Wan who committed suicide when he was caught with his hand in the till, accepting a contractor’s bribes. Last but not least, there is the scholar-military generals group, brought up in the SAF obedience school who would NEVER EVER have the balls (note the irony) or would ever dream of ever questioning their immediate superior. In other words, a very safe system of loyal protégés and cronies of the natural aristocrats from the Lee family.

To conclude, the PAP govt’s leadership renewal process is disquieting. Is it motivated by a genuine concern for Singapore and Singaporeans or, it is nothing more and nothing less than a wayang to perpetuate the PAP’s ( aka the Lee family) power, political dominance and control over Singapore Inc?

Performance and behaviour of the PAP govt during the last decade points toward the latter as being the case.



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